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Vocabulary Instruction in Action

High-Quality Vocabulary Development for English Language Learners

In the book "Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement: Research on What Works in Schools", Marzano outlines eight essential principles of vocabulary instruction that contribute to academic achievement and long-term memory of academic language. You can find Marzano's eight principles by clicking here-you might find it useful to read the principles before continuing with this section. 
 
Teacher's often ask, "What do Marzano's principles of vocabulary instruction look like in a classroom setting?" In the following paragraphs, we will outline a few ELD instructional strategies that can be used with students to develop high levels of academic language development. Let's take a second grade example from a social studies unit on the important people in the community and the country. First, we looked through the state standards as well as the Social Studies textbook in order to identify key concepts and vocabulary that students will be expected to acquire. Consistent with Marzano's principles of effective vocabulary development, we wanted to ensure that students are exposed to the key vocabulary words in a number of ways, so we employed many ELD strategies designed to provide multiple exposures to the vocabulary words. One strategy that we used was the "cognitive content dictionary", a Project GLAD strategy:
 
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We provided key content words to students, asked them to make a prediction and provided students with "nonlinguistic representations" through the use of gestures and sketches. In addition, we morphologically analyzed key parts of the vocabulary words that students were reading and learning about by pointing out prefixes, suffixes, base words, cognates and other word parts.
 
In addition to the cognitive content dictionary, we used songs, poems, and chants that contained the key vocabulary words in order to facilitate vocabulary development. We created various poems, songs, and chants with similar key academic vocabulary words within each poem. After chanting each of the poems once with students, on another day we then asked them to identify which key vocabulary they thought were high-level vocabulary. When students identified the words which they thought were high-level, we read the word together and highlighted it on the poem.
 
Here are two of the poems that we used with the key vocabulary words:
 
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In addition to the cognitive content dictionary and songs, poems and chants, we also read various books with students that contained the key vocabulary. Students also engaged in structured academic discussions by using some of the vocabulary words in cooperative groups. In addition, students also played vocabulary games with the key content vocabulary. Over the course of a two week period, students practiced the vocabulary various times in many different ways and eventually began to appropriate the key academic vocabulary by writing it in expository paragraphs about important people who have made a contribution to society. 
 
Read more about effective vocabulary instruction by clicking here
 
Purchase teacher materials about effective vocabulary instruction in the ELD Strategies store.


Vocabulary: Songs, Poems, and Chants